[ILC Dover] Frederica, Del., U.S.A.
NASA’s Inflatable Reentry Vehicle Experiment (IRVE) passed a test launch this fall with flying colors after extensive testing was completed. ILC Dover, working with NASA Langley Research Center, designed and manufactured the IRVE inflatable from silicone-coated, high-temperature fabric and a covering of ceramic fabric. The IRV is patterned and manufactured to tight tolerances to provide an exacting aerodynamic shape necessary for a controlled reentry; the ceramic covering insulates the coated material from some of the heat of reentry. Inflatable aeroshells have the potential to help capsules or payloads return to earth safely and economically, and are envisioned for future Mars missions so NASA can land much larger payloads. Commercial space companies could potentially use inflatables for their future flights, bringing humans into space and returning them safely.